History of BB #2 (Part II)
After the closing of the Chicago Historical Antique Automotive Museum, most of the vehicles where sold at auction. BB #2 was purchased by a local Chicago area cardiovascular surgeon, Constantine "Dino" Tatooles. According to Dr. Tatooles, he displayed BB #2 at local car shows and shopping malls. He kept the car for 4 or 5 years (from about 1985-1990), until it was sold to Nick Dieter of Cleveland, Ohio’s Vintage Motorcars Showplace (then Ohio’s largest classic car facility.)
Mr. Dieter indicated in private conversation that they used to hire out The Black Beauty for shows and corporate events in the local area. In March of 1991, the car was displayed at the Chicago Herocon and Comic Book Convention. Two stars of "The Green Hornet" T.V. series, Van Williams and Wende Wagner, were on hand to sign autographs for eager fans that weekend. In fact, both celebrities signed their names on the Beauty's interior rear desk and those signatures remain intact inside BB #2 to this day! Vintage Motorcars kept BB #2 in their collection until the close of their business.
In the fall of 1991, Kruse International of Auburn, Indiana, auctioned the car (more photos can be seen by clicking on thumbnail at left). The vehicle was purchased by 78-year-old Opal Wall of Sturgis, Michigan.
Ms. Wall had a passion for cars, especially black ones. She was an original owner of a classic black mid-50’s Thunderbird... and her daily driver was a 1969 Lincoln Continental.
During her first two years of ownership, Opal had the car displayed at Gilmore’s Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Later, she stored BB #2 inside a private garage less than one mile from her home.
Hot On The Trail…
In the fall of 1999, I was in contact with Louis Ringe, the then-current owner of Black Beauty #1. Louis had in his possession a document which revealed the VIN (vehicle identification number) of Black Beauty #2. He generously provided it to me. Using that information, as well as a letter published in NOW Comics' edition of The Green Hornet (Vol. 2, No. 5, January 1992, p 26/ Vol. 2, No. 6, February 1992 p 26), it took no more than 24 hours to locate and verify Opal Wall as the owner.
I made contact with Ms. Wall many times over the coming months and a friendship developed. I was very frank with her about the historical significance of BB #2 and she appreciated my honesty. Seeing my interest, and considering a sale of the vehicle, Opal invited me to come see it.
On March 25th 2000, I met Opal at her home and we traveled to the private garage where the car was stored. When the large doors opened, I saw that The Black Beauty sat sandwiched between the garage owner’s two collector vehicles... uncovered and a bit dusty. The battery was dead, but the car itself looked fully intact. It was a tight squeeze, but I was able to open the driver’s side door to confirm the VIN matched the studio paperwork from 20th Century-Fox.
Over the next few months, Ms. Wall and I discussed the sale of the vehicle. She admitted that she felt the car should be brought more into the public eye. Opal also relayed that since taking ownership of the car, no one had contacted her with a serious offer to acquire it.
Unfortunately, on June 28, 2000, Ms. Wall passed away. All of our discussions for the car's sale were going to have to be put on hold while her estate was settled. I eventually met with Ms. Wall's niece and executor of her estate and I was able to purchase the car on June 12, 2001. The Black Beauty No.2 was delivered on June 16, 2001 to my residence.
Careful examination of the vehicle revealed it was in pretty good shape considering its age, with very few miles on the odometer. The front gas gun door and the rear rocket doors were missing but all of the interior gadgets and effects were there and working. It showed a few nicks and scratches but that was to be expected for a car that was 35 years old. The interior was all there but there was a small section on the passenger front seat that was damaged. I was told that while on display in the Chicago museum they had a telephone glued to the seat top, which explained the damage.
To be continued...
Click here to see Karl's restoration photos of BB #2
Lineage of The Black Beauty no.2:
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